To call Jordan Peele a unique filmmaker of our time would be an understatement — he’s blended genres and used them to incorporate thoughtful social commentary into the most mainstream popcorn entertainment, all while giving audiences films that can satisfy, challenge, and entertain. Nope is no different. It’s a science fiction-horror-thriller-comedy with a modern infusion of likable characters and borderline surrealist world-building, and Peele’s filmmaking is at the level of the most respected auteurs like Stanley Kubrick. It’s got moments of shock, laughter, brutality, and terrifying humanity that adds so much astonishment to a film that starts with what could’ve been an overused premise in anyone’s else hands. Daniel Kaluuya has evolved into a modern film star of his generation — though he’s starred in Black Panther and won an Oscar for Judas and the Black Messiah, it was Peele’s debut Get Out that guaranteed his stardom. He’s a master at being funny but showing a character confront with real and inner “demons” in a silent way but always being a fun character too. Keke Palmer has a contagious, bubbly energy and I’m sure the entire cast and crew had plenty of laughs due to her fantastic delivery of her lines that often sneaks up on you in hysterical ways. But she’s also a genuine hero, not to mention Steven Yeun and Brandon Perea who are scene stealers.
Peele’s style always challenges genre, structure, and how the audience expects to react to things. His stylistic energy in Nope invokes eyes staring in awe, jaws dropping, and mouths smiling all at once. Due to this, Nope transcends accessibility for fans of horror, and is a top-notch film for all fans of big-screen spectacle, because it never settles for just being a horror movie. In it’s own way, Nope is a piece of art, that’s not meant to give you easy answers or leave you comfortable. Like Peele’s last movie Us, there’s so much to debunk as the thematic elements often drive the filmmaking in his movies. This one addresses many things, but among it, humanity’s flocking to images chaos and danger, and our obsession with getting as close to death and trauma as we can while wanting to arrogantly cheat the effects they may have on us, should our endeavors to harness danger go wrong. The movie is also a tribute to filmmakers and crew members in positions we don’t often acknowledge, and the achievements of black contributions to cinema that aren’t always celebrated. In a way, Peele uses this movie to celebrate the invention of cinema but also warn about our roles as audience members and monetizers of content that’s both real and adapted from truth. With it, he creates the most daring and awe-inspiring summer blockbuster possible that I’m sure will inspire many to create and challenge the world of films the way he has.
Assassin Ladybug finds himself on a bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto in order to grab a briefcase of money, but the task reveals itself not so simple as Ladybug discovers he’s not the only assassin on the train looking for the briefcase.
Bullet Train is everything I’ve wanted from an original action movie for a long time — bold, unpredictable, brutal, and irreverent. David Leitch colors the titular train with a lively style and makes the action unhinged and genuinely thrilling. Brad Pitt is no less an action badass than in the days of Fight Club, Troy and Mr. & Mrs. Smith. He gives the character a lot of humor in that he’s an assassin trying to find inner peace and avoid violence — guess how well that works out for him. But it’s hard to call a single character weak or overshadowed by Pitt. Joey King delivers her best ever turn as a deceitful young assassin, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson gives the film some excellent quips. His screen time with Brian Tyree Henry, who’s the film’s highlight, is the most heartfelt aspect of a film in which hitmen are all trying to kill each other. Henry’s talent radiates a special hysterical charm and will make you laugh and smile the most out of all the characters, not to mention he’s one of the most exciting actors these days. Even Bad Bunny, in his acting debut, does a solid job, and Zazie Beetz kills it in a minor role, and in my opinion the most underutilized performer of the film, considering she’s one of the best actresses in the film’s cast. Not to mention a lot of familiar faces that I was surprised were even in the movie, so stay away from the cast list before you see this one.
Bullet Train‘s script feels reminiscent of Guy Ritchie’s most uncompromising films, like Snatch, RocknRolla and The Gentlemen, in which you have to choose your alliances among a cast of criminal characters and anyone could bite the dust. Not to mention the script never takes itself seriously for a second, incorporating flashbacks, a vibrant soundtrack, and unexpected laugh-out-loud humor. The editing is where the film both shines and sometimes falters, as there are a few moments of unnecessarily aggressive cuts during scenes where there’s either action that could’ve used more wide shots, or explanations for events you’ve already seen play out. There’s also an exposition monologue at the end that’s easily the low point of the film and some character placements that don’t flow as smoothly in the third act or have no reason to be there. But in the end, only a filmmaker as bold as Leitch could get away with making something so much fresher than any other $100 million action movie you’ll see on the big screen today that’s not a sequel. Bullet Train has so much going twistiness, vulgarity and blood going for it, yet it’s the cheeky wit, exuberant performances, and relentless style that makes this ride such a welcome one.